Board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon, practicing in Colorado Springs and Pueblo

CMS member Vinh Chung, MD, completed his BA in biology at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude, and earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. During his medical studies, Dr. Chung studied at the University of Sydney as a Fulbright Scholar. In addition, he earned a Master of Theology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Dr. Chung is a recipient of the Theodore Tromovitch Award, awarded to 1-2 Mohs fellows annually by the American College of Mohs Surgery. His research has been published in leading national medical publications, and he received the Young Investigator’s Award from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Dr. Chung’s memoir, Where the Wind Leads, which chronicles the story of his family’s survial and his early years as a refugee from Vietnam is available on amazon.com and other places books and ebooks are sold. He has served on the board of directors for World Vision. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and four children.

He is an innovator, constantly challenging the norms in medicine and in society. Dr. Chung says, “My discontent for ‘what is’ is driven by ‘what could be.’ This constant uphill push for better is what gives me purpose every single day.”

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your career.

A: I was born in Vietnam. My family came to the U.S. in 1979 as refugees. We were among the “boat people” and were rescued at sea by a Christian humanitarian organization World Vision. My family settled in Fort Smith, Ark., because a small Lutheran church there sponsored my family. I have written a memoir about my family’s journey in Where the Wind Leads.

There was a point in my life when I could not speak English and was a stranger to this country. My intimate knowledge of what it is like to live in the margins of society compels me to serve the vulnerable today. Every simple action we can do as physicians can make an immense impact. My family recalls gratefully the members of the Lutheran Church who welcomed us and got us settled into our first home. I remember elementary school teachers who spent extra time with me because I struggled with English. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the kindness of others. This is why I love to serve in rural or underserved areas.

Q: Why did you choose medicine and what’s your favorite aspect of it?

A: I knew from an early age that I wanted to become a doctor. I gravitated toward the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer because it is a field where I can identify a problem and fix it. Nothing is more rewarding than to save a life through early diagnosis and early treatment of a skin cancer. Every day, I am privileged to be able to intervene in a way that is life changing for others.

I believe that I have been given much, and so much is expected of me. I serve and give not because it’s a moral obligation, but because I derive my greatest joy from it. Just like anyone else, my work can be challenging at times. However, I believe that my work is not a job. It is a calling. 

When “What” I do is aligned with “Who” I am and “Why” I exist, I don’t have a job.  I have a calling. There is nothing else that I’d rather do.

Q: How do you make a difference in medicine?

A: Because of my background as a former refugee, I’ve learned to face adversity straight on. Life is so short and so precious that I do not want to stand on the sidelines while it passes by. This is why my medical practice took action after seeing what happened in Afghanistan. Like the rest of the world, we knew what would happen to the Afghans left behind after the U.S. military withdrawal. When we learned that some of the Afghan refugees will be resettling in Colorado, we knew we had to step up and engage.

We reached out to our social and professional networks and launched an all-day event with KOAA, a local news station. Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center was the host site, and military veterans and spouses volunteered with us at the telethon. Because we would never ask others to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves, we decided up front that we would match every dollar that comes in up to $100,000. The community effort has raised over $100,000, which means that over $200,000 will be going to Afghan refugees who are settling in our town. We hope our efforts would welcome them in the same way that my own family was welcomed here many years ago.

Q: If you could change one thing in your field or health care as a whole, what would it be? 

A: I would like every medical organization to be led by practicing physicians. Only those who work in the health care trenches every day would truly have the perspective to lead in an authentic way. We owe it to our patients to lead well.  

Q: How do you define leadership?

A: Every doctor has arrived at where we are through years of excellent individual performance. We were the top of our class…etc. However, medicine is a team sport. Our individual excellence will take us only so far. If we don’t learn how to lead well, we will end up frustrated and burned out.

Leadership is essentially influence. How do we influence others towards a desired future or a desired outcome? As physicians, we must know how to influence our patients towards health. Knowing the right answer is not enough. We must lead them through the process of attaining health. We must also lead our team to deliver effective and efficient medical care. Being the smartest or the highest-ranking person is not enough. We must inspire and lead our team to move towards a clearly defined vision of what excellent medical care looks like.

Q: What is the coolest things your kids do?

A: My kids raise money for other kids living in poverty overseas. They have a heart for those who have little. This makes me prouder than any competition they may ever win.

 

If you would like to discuss how you could practice medicine with a purpose, Dr. Chung invites you to reach out to him at vchung@vanguardskin.com

 

The Colorado Medical Society is proud to launch the CMS member spotlight in 2022. Do you want to be spotlighted this year? Contact enews_editor@cms.org to self-nominate or to nominate one of your colleagues.


Categories: Communications, ASAP